On Sunday, according to a report by Israel’s Channel 2 News, Habayit Hayehudi Chairman, Minister Naftali Bennett, will arrive at the meeting of the leaders of the coalition parties with a demand that Netanyahu respond with two measures to the PA’s moves to incorporate the terror group Hamas in its ranks: first, Bennett wants Israel to sever all ties with the Palestinian Authority; second, Israel must revoke all of its agreements with the PA, including the construction of a new neighborhood on the outskirts of Ramallah and the construction of the PA industrial zone near Tarqumiyah, some 9 miles northwest of Hebron.
Incidentally, on Monday President Trump’s peace envoy Jason Greenblatt is scheduled to visit Tarqumiyah, as part of the Administration’s efforts to empower the PA economically as a path to a permanent peace deal. So and announcement of its cancellation should go over well in Washington.
In Netanyahu’s circle there does not appear to be much panic over the reconciliation signed between Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah and Ismail Haniyeh’s Hamas, largely due to the fact that Hamas has rejected the two main Abbas demands – consolidating the weapons arsenal in Judea and Samaria and Gaza under PA rule and disarming the Hamas military wing. But no one denies that even at its current state of largely pretend reconciliation, the new PA poses a higher level of security threat to Israel than it did before the kiss-and-make-up sessions in Cairo.
On Thursday, Fatah and Hamas announced they had reached a compromise on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza – which had largely been caused by the PA cutting off electric power in the Strip. Also, control over the crossings between Gaza and both Israel and Egypt was transferred to Abbas’ Presidential Guard, and combined Fatah-Hamas monitoring committees have been established to consolidate the legal authority of the PA, including over the possession and use of weapons. It’s not the same as disbanding and disarming Hamas, but it photographs well.
Egypt, which has been the relentless catalyst of the most recent reconciliation government, has called for a meeting in Cairo on November 21, presumably to close the deal. In this context, with the US and Egypt being this invested in the new Fatah-Hamas move, Netanyahu may not be able to adopt Bennett’s demands, even if they make perfect sense.
Netanyahu will have to rely instead on the immortal adage of the late Abba Eban at the 1973 Geneva Peace Conference: “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Sooner or later, this shiny package of a reconciliation is bound to fall apart, since it makes no sense, for two main reasons: Hamas is incapable of accepting a true peace with Israel, and the PA is deathly frightened of what Hamas could do to it in an open and transparent national election.
Netanyahu will wait for the new PA government to collapse under its own weight of inherent conflicts and animosities, and will be very careful to avoid confrontation over this issue wither Cairo or Washington. Instead, the PM’s office stated on Friday that “any reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas must include honoring international agreements and the Quartet conditions, first and foremost among them recognizing Israel and disarming Hamas.”
The Prime Minister’s Office statement continued: “As long as Hamas does not disarm and continues to call for the destruction of Israel, Israel holds it responsible for all terrorist actions originating in the Gaza Strip. Israel insists that the PA not allow any base whatsoever for Hamas terrorist actions from PA areas in Judea and Samaria or from Gaza, if the PA indeed takes responsibility for its territory.”